Monday, August 29, 2011

Thoughts on the Sony NEX-VG20

I have to admit that I'm more than a bit curious about the NEX-VG20, mainly because I don't like shooting video with DSLRs (I don't like the form factor, and the need to add on a bunch of gadgets to make them useable) but also because it's half the price of the other alternatives; the Sony NEX-FS100 and the Panasonic AG-AF100, so it's a big sensor video camera that's within my budget.

When the NEX-VG10 appeared a year ago, there was a lot of interest in it because it almost seemed like Sony's answer to the DSLR video resolution. But it had a lot of limitations; 30p video (stored as a 60i file), no ND filters, limited controls, a slow, awkward lens, no manual audio controls...

When I managed to spend a few minutes playing with one, I really didn't like the lens; it wasn't a zoom lens by any means, but a variable focal length lens that was rather sticky.

And then a few months later, Sony started to roll out their professional grade cameras; the PMW-F3, followed by the NEX-FS100.

An important note; the PMW-F3 and NEX-FS100 share the same "Super 35mm" sensor (though not the same image processor) while the NEX-VG10 and VG20 use sensors that come from the DSLR/photography division. The NEX-VG20 sensor is an APS-C sized chip (23.4 X 15.6mm), while the Super35mm sensor is 23.6mm x 13.8mm. This may result in a slightly different apparent focal length, but all four cameras should have very similar depth-of-field and field of view.

Oddly, one year on and with a few improvements, the VG20 looks more attractive to me now than the VG10 did. Partly it's because of the support for 24p, the manual audio control, and the improved manual controls. You can even buy it without the kit lens if you don't want that.

But it may also be that the lack of ND filters, and the questionable lens choices, seem less of a problem given that the exact same problem exits for the twice as expensive NEX-FS100! I'm not sure what that says about either camera, or how my impressions can be manipulated!

And while I realize that the VG-20 may not rival the NEX-FS100 for image quality, options, controls and XLR inputs, when you're on a DSLR budget, the price difference becomes a huge decision driver.
B&H: Sony NEX-VG20 Interchangeable Lens HD Handycam Camcorder (Body Only)


NeedCreative said...

Unfortiunately I've seen moire and aliasing in samples from the VG20. Same issues as the VG10. I'd recommend someone get a T3i over the VG20 to same money; the picture quality would be the same or similar.

Michael Murie said...

Yeah, I don't expect the image to be markedly better than you can get out of a DSLR, and moire will be the biggest issue there.

The biggest advantages over the T3i will be better ergonomics, no time limits, peaking, better audio.

It will be interesting to see how it compares for low-light though, the NEX-5n tests look pretty promising, and the VG20 has the same chip as that.

That said, if I had an NEX-FS100 there's no way I'd sell it to buy the VG20!

Nixluva said...

It doesn't make sense to bash the image quality of the VG20 based on some early Youtube and Vimeo clips. It's not even officially out yet!

It's also silly to bash the VG20 by saying you wouldn't sell the FS100 in order to buy the VG20, since the FS100 is twice the price of the VG20!

VG20 has many things over the T3i. Form factor, 60p, long record times, built in surround mic, longer battery life and the image quality is indeed better than the T3i based on what i've seen.